|he theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey booms from the speakers of the church gym. The music breaks into a pounding drumbeat. Elvis charges onto the basketball court, throwing his hands to the audience of Wal-Mart cashiers. They look up from their bingo games, dumbstruck.
Red and blue lights flash, gold and silver sequins sparkle, as Elvis dances under the basketball hoop. His white high-heel boots slither as he pumps his hips and tilts the microphone stand. The audience begins clapping to the beat. Elvis gyrates. A few smiles (some smirks) appear. Sliding to one knee, Elvis ends the song, and drawls, Thankya, athankya vury much.
As he sings Teddy Bear, he hurls small stuffed animals into the audience, striking poses like a quarterback. A teddy bear arcs; heads pivot. Its going back, going, goingstraight toward two women. They reach. One woman catches it and the other, still reaching, knocks it out of her hands. Losing the bear, the woman punches her klutzy friend.
What? Wal-Mart employees fighting in a church? Over a stuffed bear? As if it had been tossed by Elvis Presley himself!
It starts to get to your head, says David Lomond, who has been hired to perform as Elvis for the local Wal-Mart Christmas party in Eugene, Oregon. His smile is wide like two fingers flashing the Hawaiian hang loose sign. Youve got to stop and ask why youre doing this.
mitation, it has been said, is the sincerest form of flattery. But whom, exactly, are Elvis impersonators trying to flatter? Are they really trying to pay tribute to their favorite singer, or are they making one last-ditch attempt at fame and popularity and passion?
At home, in a ranch-style house with a two-car garage, Lomond looks like an average dad. He wears T-shirts and khaki pants, plays with his kids, pets his dog but on a performance night, he transforms.
He pins a faux ruby broach to the top of his white tuxedo shirt, slips into a red velvet dinner jacket, and glances in the mirror. A native Hawaiian, his skin is the warm umber of a coconut husk. His mahogany hair curls and twists naturally, but tonight hes dyed it jet black again, straightened it, and sculpted it into a mega-pompadour.
Then he hops into his baby blue 59 Caddy. Its dented and rusted in spots, but long and glistening with chrome. He clicks on the radio, slips on his Foster Grant shades, and cruises to his gig. People point. Another Elvis sighting.